Technology

For ages, – or at least it seems that long – the pundits have loudly proclaimed that “The Desktop Is Dead”. As part of their – almost – incessant declamations, they have pointed to sales figures for laptops which have been higher but have hardly been a reason to issue a death notice for desktops. Now, all that is about to change, for in January – or thereabouts – they shalt cry: “The desktop and the laptop are dead”. The reason for the latest obituary will be the 4th quarter sales figures for tablets. For the 1st time, shipments of tablets are expected to overtake shipments of laptops.

The reasons for this surge are smaller tablets like the Nexus 7 and the iPad mini. It’s a matter of size and cost. The sweet spot seems to be around $199 for a 7″ form-factor tablet. The device becomes more affordable and portable at that point. To be sure, 10″ tablets are still going strong but 7 inches seems to be the Everyman device.

Of course, Apple does have to be a bit “different”. The iPad mini is larger than 7 inches and costs considerably more than $199 but Cupertino knows its customer base and what the traffic will bear.

One thing is certain, sales are booming no matter if it’s Apple, Google, Amazon or one of the number of other manufacturers. Fox example, Asus – which manufactures the Nexus 7 for Google – has indicated that they are selling about one million units per month and that is not anything to sneer at, folks.

At some point, market saturation will be reached and sales will therefore slow down as they did for desktops, but for now, it’s full steam ahead.

SOURCE:  c|net.com

My Windows 8 upgrade is still on hold. If you’ve missed my previous posts, I tried upgrading via the download gizmo which at first said that I was good to go w/ Win 8 and the install process ended when it said that my PC was not compatible. I ordered a DVD but it has yet to arrive and we’re heading out the back-end of November.

Apparently, I’m not the only one with compatibility issues. A story on CNN’s MONEY site tells a rather sad tale of the frustrations one guy is experiencing trying to upgrade his relatively new Lenovo Z580 laptop. Read the story and you’ll see that he’s not the only one with this sort of frustration. Many of the users experiencing problems migrating to Windows 8 report that their systems have completely crashed because of the upgrade. Dr. Data has not been so unlucky but still . . .

Users report that their apps consistently crash under Windows 8 while others report that some of their essential device and software drivers aren’t compatible between Windows 7 and Windows 8. This means that parts of their system aren’t working now even though they once did under Windows 7. One can imagine that this sort of thing might happen with home-brew systems that have been cobbled together with odd parts or off-brand machines from less than well-known manufacturers. No, these complaints are coming from users with new – or almost so – PCs from mainstream manufacturers/vendors.

It seems that there are some parts of some PCs have no Windows 8 drivers available. In other cases, Microsoft did not pick up Windows 8 drivers from many of those manufacturers that did indeed make them available. If you can remember back to the dark days of Vista, the same thing happened with drivers in that situation. History is repeating itself. What can you expect of an OS that a majority of users have not heard about and are not really interested in?

I TOLD YOU SO

Back in the summer, Dr. Data opined that Microsoft was headed for a Vista-like debacle with Windows 8 and that was just due to the interface formally known as Metro. Redmond was able to recover from Vista with Windows 7. Can Microsoft survive another round of falling flat on its face? Is this a golden opportunity for Linux?

One other thing from this past summer’s posts about the rapidly approaching technological cliff called Windows 8; Dr. Data hinted that those holding shares in Microsoft might want to consider unloading them. That is more and more sounding like sage advice now.

SOURCES:

It’s been three weeks since Windows 8 launched and we should have some numbers coming in . . . except we don’t. Microsoft has been keeping mum about just how well – or otherwise – Windows 8 has been doing. There was a press release mentioning 4 million copies sold the first weekend after the launch but “sold” does not mean “installed”. Knowing how Redmond loves – like any company – to trumpet its sales figures, that press release is more of a piccolo right now.

Perhaps this may have something to do with an article in the Wall Street Journal today which reports that in October, companies showed the most drastic cuts in growth and investments in hardware/software since 2009. Yes, it might have something to do with the apparently disappointing sales except that the number of companies expected to be early adopters of Windows 8 was fairly small. This cutback may have had some impact on the numbers but Dr. Data believes that it was pretty darn small.

A significant number of the sales for any operating systems comes from pre-installations on new PCs/Laptops and the manufacturers are clearing out the Windows 7 machines first before pushing Windows 8 machines out the door. Microsoft may find some bit of comfort there but the early numbers and analysis indicate that there will not be much change over the next month and a half.

A lot of the initial sales of any operating system comes directly from consumers; the early adopters who want to have a go at the latest and greatest as soon as possible. Dr. Data has been following a thread on the Windows BBS forum that asks the simple question: “Do you plan to move to Windows 8”. So far, the response has been a resounding “NO”. Of course, a good many of the people who use websites like this are experienced Windows users; people who use Windows a lot and might thus be somewhat less inclined to make an early move because of sheer inertia. That leaves Mr. & Mrs. Average Consumer and they don’t seem to be very interested at the moment.

Meanwhile, the Windows 8 DVD that Dr. Data ordered from Redmond has yet to turn up in the Parsonage mail-box. Not very encouraging, is it? The only bright spot is a shimmering mirage of popularity with regard to the Windows Surface RT tablet. It is the most popular Windows 8 device with an 11% share of sales. That sounds great but one must keep in mind that the Surface tablet is a so-so sized fish in a rather small pond.

All of this leaves Dr. Data to conclude that with Thanksgiving just a few days away, there’s more than one turkey gobbling out there. Linux anyone?

Sources:

I’m having another go at learning Visual Basic not that I’ve had any problems with it in the past. It’s just that every time I get ready to try my hand, my employer has said “Never Mind” and everything on the subject that I’ve managed to stuff into my wee sma’ brain escapes. My current part-time gig uses VB & ASP.NET extensively so I’ve signed up for a course and am getting ready to do it one more time.

Anyway, I’m reading a book called Learning Visual Basic . NET and I can tell that the author is somewhat younger than I am. I found the following footnote:

Remember, the Y2K problem was caused by programmers who couldn’t imagine needing to reference a year later than 1999.

A fine example of youth and inexperience that is. The Y2K problem really began in the early days of computing when memory was tight. The machine I worked on after graduating from Wesleyan had only 16 K of memory. There was a mainframe on site that had an incredible 256 K of memory! In the early days of computing, machines had a very limited amount of memory so the coding for an application had to be tight and every byte of storage had to be conserved. Why waste a byte for “1984” when “84” would work just as well. The Y2K mess was due to the fact that there was no remediation of data and applications when hardware began sporting larger amounts of memory, well before the turn of the century.

I saw the problem coming back in 1981. The general assumption was that these older applications would be superseded with ones using more modern programming techniques as time went by and thus the problem would simply go away. Trouble is, it didn’t. While it became standard to use “1984” instead of  “84” in an application, a lot of the old data – and the systems that depended on it was still using the old method for designating a year. Add to that the fact that significant amounts of code were still in use a quarter century after it was first written and you have Y2K. Q.E.D.

The year 2000 dawned and there was – overall – very little disruption due to the world’s odometer ticking over. There followed a hue and cry from the general public that the whole Y2K problem had been overblown and was essentially a case of crying “Wolf”. Rest assured that the problem and threat was very real. Things went smoothly because a bunch of software engineers – including yours truly – spent a lot of time remediating both code and data to ensure that disruptions would be kept to a bare minimum.

And now you know the rest of the story.

You may – or may not – remember my announcement earlier this year that I planned to be an “early adopter” of Windows 8 – at least as far as my test machine goes. I finally found a bit of time two weeks ago, fired up the # 2 PC and set about upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 8.

The first thing that happens when you arrive at the Windows 8 Upgrade Site is that Microsoft downloads a widget to check your system for compatibility issues:

  • Do you even have Windows 7 to begin with
  • Is your machine capable of running Windows 8
  • Do you have any software applications on your machine that won’t work with the new OS

That bit of folderol seemed to take forever took forever but the widget finally announced that my machine was good to go. I handed over my credit card information and initiated the download of the upgrade package. Once that was done, the widget started work on the upgrade itself. Now here’s where the fun begins.

The upgrade widget told me that to continue the process, my PC would have to reboot. Nothing unusual about that request so I let the widget have its way with my machine. Following the reboot, the widget announced that it was resuming the upgrade. So far, so good. After a bit of thumb-twiddling on my part, the widget suddenly announced that my test PC was incapable of running Windows 8 and went to EOJ. Did the widget change its mind somewhere along the way?

Rebooting my PC did not result in the widget restarting the upgrade. To do that, I had to go back to square one where I downloaded the widget in the first place. Once again, it told me that my PC was good to go and then asked for my credit card information . . . again. Obviously, I was not going to pay twice to upgrade the same copy of Windows 7 so I fished around in the downloads folder and found the ISO image for the upgrade. I burned the ISO on to a DVD and tried to restart the upgrade process. I was duly informed that I was trying to upgrade a 32-bit system with a 64-bit upgrade DVD and that I should use the 32-bit DVD instead. Trouble is, there is no 32-bit DVD!

After stewing over this for a week and checking with WindowsBBS.com – a great resource, by the way – I was advised to buy a copy of the Upgrade DVD from Microsoft and use that to run the upgrade; exactly what I was trying to avoid in the first place. At this point, my upgrade to Windows 8 – all done purely in the interest of science – is now costing me $56.00.

Microsoft has informed me that the DVD is on its way to me. I’ll keep you apprised of future developments in this saga.

Well, it’s Monday again. No matter how hard we try, this things seems to come around about this time every week. So, to start your week, here are a few items of note for those interested in technology:

  • Windows 8 Ho-Hum –The holiday shopping season – which seems to have already kicked off, may change things but a survey conducted by the Associated Press and GfK revealed the following:
    • 52% of  the 1,200 US Adults polled in this survey have never heard of Windows 8
    • Adding insult to injury, 61% had no interest in buying a desktop/laptop with Windows 8
    • And for a coup de grace, only 35% thought that Windows 8 was an improvement over Windows 7
    • It was probably a substantial portion of that 35% who comprised  the 31% of respondents who were actually interested in Microsoft’s Surface tablet.
    • Read the full story on the PC Magazine website.
  • No Help From the Business Sector –While Windows in the workplace has been a mainstay of Microsoft’s revenue stream, it looks like organisations will be slow to hop on the Windows 8 bandwagon. In October, TechRepublic  asked its members to talk about their organisation’s deployment plans. This was a voluntary survey drawn from a pool of people who frequent a particular website so the results are most likely skewed to some degree. Nonetheless, the responses were eye-opening:
    • 49.9 % of organisations have no plans in place to deploy Windows 8 but may do so at some future date.
    • 23.8 % plan to skip Windows 8 entirely
    • 11 % will deploy Windows 8 but have not set a target date
    • 10.7 % plan to deploy Windows 8 sometime in the next 12 months
    • 4.6 % are waiting until Service Pack 1 to deploy Windows 8
    • Hardly a stampede to adopt Windows 8 early on. Read TechRepublic’s complete article.
  • Some Hope for Surface – Opra Winfrey likes the Surface RT tablet saying that it feels like a Mercedes-Benz to her. It is worth noting that Opra gushed over the iPad in 2010 by saying “Words cannot describe what I feel for this magnificent device . . .” Opra – who has her own network, BTW – has added the Surface to her list of favourite things that will be featured in a 2-hour TV special scheduled on for Nov. 18th at 8:00 PM. There is no record of how Opra felt about the Microsoft Zune. Read PC Magazine’s full story on Opra’s endorsement.

That’s it for this morning. Have a good day!

Lost in all the  frantic preparations for Hurricane Sandy was Google’s product announcements on Monday, October 29th. In fact, the event itself was cancelled; it was in New York City after all. It’s an ill wind indeed that doesn’t blow someone some good and Apple seems to be the main beneficiary by having its upstart competitor’s announcement quashed.

Since there are no speeches to analyse and no live demonstrations to recount, here’s what we do know:

  • The Nexus 7 is gaining additional storage. The 8 GB tablet is history. Now, there is a 16 GB tablet for $199 and a 32 GB tablet for $249. Doubling your storage capacity for an extra $50.00 seems like a good idea to Dr. Data.
  • The version of the 32 GB tablet costing $299 can support HSPA+on T-Mobile and AT&T. Google gave 4G LTE a miss as it would drain the battery and increase the cost of the device.
  • Samsung is manufacturing the Nexus 10 for Google. This tablet supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC and offers up to 9 hours of video playback and 500 hours of standby time. This last bit is great if you’re like Dr. Data and hate booting your tablet every hour or two to check your e-mail. The Nexus 10 will be available on November 13th at a price of $399 for 16 GB of storage and $499 for 32 GB or storage.
  • A 4″  smartphone manufactured for Google by LG. T-Mobile will be offering the device for $199 with a two-year contract.

For more details, see the article on PC Magazine.

It has been over 72 hours since Windows 8 officially went on sale and Dr. Data has yet to get a copy for his test machine. While that should come later this week, he is nonetheless enjoying the post launch buzz – both pro and con. For example Dan Costa from PC Magazine claims that Windows 8 Is Too Big to Fail.  Dr. Data remembers that being said about Wall St. and Banks as recently as 5 years ago and we all know what happened after that, don’t we. Dan reasons that Microsoft still dominates the market despite Apple’s growth to 13% and – as much as I hate to say it – the minuscule 1.5% that Linux owns. Since Microsoft’s CEO, Steve Ballmer, stated that there were 670,000,000 Windows PCs just a-waiting to be upgraded, Dan  claims that Windows 8 has become the new standard – apparently by default – overnight. OK, but Dr. Data remembers when Vista was the next big thing and  . . . well . . . you know the rest.

Meanwhile, Matthew Murray – also writing in PC Magazine – argues that Windows 8 is a Desktop Disaster and bewails loading it on his PC over the weekend. Like Dr. Data, he feels that Redmond gas given short shrift to traditional desktop and laptop users. Though Matthew and Dr. Data are no longer in the Windows target market – in the same way that hiring managers believe that people over 50 no longer exist – there are still a whole heck of a lot of us out there. Windows Vista was little more than a damp squib until Service Pack 2 came along and the same fate may befall Windows 8. By the time that Microsoft released that service pack, Vista  had gained such a bad reputation that the damage was almost irreparable.  When Windows 7 came out, there was much rejoicing and history may indeed repeat itself with the majority of those millions and millions of PCs that Steve Ballmer mentioned holding out for Windows 9. Until then, Windows 7 is most likely the new standard.

Although we all try to prevent the latest bit of nastiness from taking up residence on our systems, sometimes the bad guys win and we’re faced with the task of cleaning up Dodge. Some of these infections are quite clever and not only prevent you from executing detection and removal tools, but also prevent you from downloading them in the first place. There is, however, a way around that last bit.

Tech Republic has an article listing 5 portable tools for cleaning up malware and virus infections. All of them are free though some may be donation-ware or a way of advertising a more robust paid version. Nonetheless, they will help get you out of a jam and in that case, who cares if there’s an ad or two for the paid-up version of the tool.

The tools are:

  1. ClamWin Portable
  2. Sophos Anti Rootkit Portable
  3. Emsisoft Free Emergency Toolkit
  4. Vipre Rescue
  5. Spybot Search and Destroy Portable

Dr. Data is most familiar with the Emsisoft Emergency Toolkit and Spybot Search & Destroy. There are a number of people who argue that the Emsisoft product is even better than Dr. Data’s favourite tool, MalwareBytes, and he is not going to argue their relative merits here. He will say, however, that the Emsisoft tool does seem to take longer to perform a scan than MalwareBytes. Whether that is because the former is more meticulous than the latter is a topic for another day.

As for Spybot Search and Destroy, Dr. Data has used it to bat clean-up for a number of years now. Spybot will flag and remove spyware, tracking cookies, etc. but it is also excellent for cleaning up the bits of debris left after an infection is removed and can give clues as to how the infection made its way on to your system in the first place.

All five tools require the user to be proactive. In other words, you need to:

  1. Find a clean USB thumb drive
  2. Install the tools on the thumb drive
  3. Keep those tools up to date
  4. Remember where you put the thumb drive

If the infection blocks the execution of one or more of these tools, then you will have to either use a rescue CD/DVD to boot your system or remove the hard drive and attach it to another system using any one of a number of fine USB SATA/IDE bridge devices on the market and disinfect the drive that way.

Read the full article on TechRepublic.

If you happen to live anywhere on planet earth, you will probably know by now that Apple finally announced the iPad mini – the worst kept secret in tech for many moons – on Tuesday, October 23rd. If you were paying attention, you will also know that the iPad mini has what is, for all intents and purposes, essentially an eight inch screen. Yes, it is a smaller iPad but is it as pocket-able as a 7 inch Google Nexus? Apple also announced a $329 price-point for the low-end model; a mere $170 cheaper than the low-end iPad. $329 is awfully close to a $499 iPad and quite possibly not the price-point that the consumer market was hoping for.

Yes, the iPad mini  is incredibly light and incredibly thin but Dr. Data remembers what happened with the first MacBook Air. Upon the day of annunciation, Saint Steven of Jobs demonstrated the thinness and lightness of the laptop by inserting it into a standard inter-office envelope. A fair number of consumers did similar things with their latest toy and more than one of these laptops were thrown away by mistake. Sometimes thinness and lightness can work against you.

As for a price-point, consumers were hoping for something along the lines of that for the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7; $199. With the iPad mini, you do get a larger screen and a tablet that you can hold in one had – provided you have a fair-sized mitt – but is that really worth the extra $130? The current economic climate have made consumers quite price conscious and they may very well eschew the cachet of owning an iPad for the price practicality of the Kindle Fire or Google Nexus. Women are looking for something that they can easily slide into a purse or handbag while Guys are looking for something that will easily slide into a shirt/coat pocket or shoulder bag. It remains to be seen if that will be as easy to do as with the Nexus 7.

In the run-up to this long-awaited announcement, some market research indicated that the iPad mini might elicit more ho-hums than huzzahs from consumers. The Apple faithful may sing hosannas as they queue  up for the iPad mini but the rest of the market; no so much. The $329 price point seems to help  ensure this prediction coming to fruition.

For a comparison of the iPad mini, the Kindle Fire and the Nexus 7,  see the article about this on c|net.

Whilst we are on the subject of the 6,000,00o ton gorilla from Cupertino, here are two other items submitted for your consideration:

  • Some Russian Orthodox Christians view Apple’s logo as a symbol of sin that they would like to see outlawed. Read all about it on c|net.
  • Venture capitalist, Robert MacNamee wonders if Apple has become a “dumb monopolist”. Those of you extant and old enough to stay up late and watch Super Bowl commercials in 1984 will surely remember Apples landmark “1984” commercial that ran once and only once. Back in the day, Apple was the iconoclastic rebel striking a blow against Big Brother – read Microsoft. Dr. Data has wondered for quite a while  if Apple is now more like the characters in that other novel by George Orwell; Animal Farm. For those of you who may have forgotten your Civics and Government classes in high school or college, by the end of the story, the Pigs had become indistinguishable from the human masters they once sought to overthrow. Read the full story in the Upstart Business Journal.

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